Violin contestant tells jury to keep their special prize

Violin contestant tells jury to keep their special prize


norman lebrecht

June 06, 2019

The Leopold Mozart Competition in Augusburg has been rocked by a Spanish contestant who refused to accept a speical prize and perform in the final concert because he was not selected as one of the three finalists.

Julen Zelaia was to have received a prize for the best interpretation of a commissioned work (“SOLEOS” by Elzbieta Sikora), but he decided this was small beer and left town.

The organisers say: Contrary to the competition rules accepted by all participants and despite a personal discussion, Zelaia was not willing to perform the commissioned work in the winners’ concert on June 8 and has already made his departure from Augsburg. The competition management very much regrets the decision. However, in the interest of a fair competition for all participants and out of respect for the jury and the composer, the current regulations make this ruling necessary.

In a fairly obscure competition, Julen has found a way to get attention.



  • PHF says:

    Maybe he is just not interested, fair enough.

  • Martin Smith says:

    It’s hardly the Callas “walk out” in Rome!
    He’s unknown, and may well remain so!

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    So many fiddlers who have placed below third or fourth have gone on to careers which have proved more successful than those who placed higher. This guy is a poor sport and unworthy of honorable mention – he knew and accepted the rules and now just walks away?

  • John Rook says:

    Maybe because the prize was ‘speical’ and not ‘special’.

  • muslit says:

    “In a fairly obscure competition, Julen has found a way to get attention.”…………It doesn’t take much these days.

  • Robert Levin says:

    Mr. Zelaia should be satisfied with the prize for the best interpretation of a commissioned work. He is a solid violinist, but that’s about it. I know many symphony orchestra violinists who play as well as him, if not better.

  • The View from America says:

    … and SD is the first in line.

  • Jules says:

    “the current regulations make this ruling necessary.” – what ruling?

    • Straussian says:

      That the Special Prize was withdrawn due to his refusal to perform? I agree with this decision. There’s a singular lack of humility and grace shown by the contestant. Unless there’s irrefutable wrongdoings by the jury, there’s no excuse for such behaviour.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    What ruling?

  • Anon says:

    How ungracious of him. A poor sport who reflects badly on his country.

  • Will Duffay says:

    According to Ionarts, it was because he’d have to hang around for another 3 days to play it again (in the presence of the composer).

    • SVM says:

      A reasonable point. Presumably, the announcement of the special prize was not made until after the announcement of the finalists? Consequently, the violinist may well have already made his travel arrangements to go home before he was informed that he had won the special prize (maybe he should have waited, but booking trains/flights/&c. is far more expensive if done at the last moment). Did the competition offer to fund the additional expenses associated with performing at the event, or was the violinist expected to pay his own way? If the latter, and the expenses were to exceed the value of the prize, the violinist’s actions are actually quite rational.

      • Anon says:

        Yes, but it doesn’t look like that’s what happened. Glancing at his FB page, his friends are applauding him for his “strong character” and forceful decision. This is Spanish bravado at its worst.

        Humility is not a strong suit for many Spanish players. They equate bravado and exaggerated self-confidence with being really good. By neccesity, once they’re out working and competing internationally they learn to tone this down. This guy is a baby. He’s green and he hasn’t learned that yet. He’s straight out of his Spanish conservatory starting out with a minor competition, and he has no clue that the rest of the world doesn’t regard arrogance as ability.

        It could be a costly lesson. While yes, perhaps within Spain, his bravado and arrogance will be celebrated among his young friends, but how many international competitions in the future will risk awarding him a prize or even accepting him as a candidate?

      • Saxon Broken says:

        That was what I thought. He had already left town since he didn’t make the final. So he would have had to return, which might have been pretty expensive.